Liverpool have been left desperately short of defenders ahead of their FA Cup third-round visit to Exeter on 8 January, with Jurgen Klopp confirming fears that Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure will both be absent for the trip to St James Park.
Although the latter is only believed to be suffering from cramp, Lovren, along with Philippe Coutinho, sustained a hamstring injury during the Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg win over Stoke on 5 January and both players are now set to miss the FA Cup tie and possibly the meeting with fierce rivals Manchester United on 17 January.
"Coutinho is more serious than Dejan," Klopp was quoted as saying by The Mirror at his pre-match press conference. "Kolo is only cramp but it won't be possible for him to play the next game. Lovren should be back after United. Coutinho will need a few weeks longer."
The losses of Toure and Lovren would appear to create a sizeable headache for Klopp, who was forced to deploy midfielder Lucas Leiva as a makeshift centre-back for much of the evening against Stoke, with Martin Skrtel also out thanks to a hamstring issue picked up at Watford in December and Mamadou Sakho sidelined with a minor knee injury. The manager was coy on which players he will have available for Exeter, although a congested fixture list will likely necessitate changes.
"We have to take the situation and we go to Exeter, it's a great tournament," he added. "We have to make decisions for the team and make changes. I don't know who will be available. We will train in two hours and see who will play tomorrow (Friday)."
The match against Exeter will be Klopp's first taste of the FA Cup since succeeding Brendan Rodgers in October 2015. And although the former Borussia Dortmund stalwart admits to knowing little about Liverpool's League Two opponents, he is clearly aware of the significance attached to the world's oldest football competition.
"It's a real big tournament. It's really important in Germany too. We will pay big respect and I spoke to the players before the semi-final to talk about the importance of the competitions. The players are really interested in winning the League and FA Cup. The team we put out will want to win 100% and go to the next round but it will be a team who haven't played too often together.
"I don't know too much about them (Exeter). Their pitch is not in the best way from what I have seen. They are professionals and do have quality, that is obvious. It's the same in Germany. Everybody wants a big team. But with Dortmund, in the last few years, we were in the final."